All jobs are demanding, and in certain careers overtime is becoming more and more commonplace. It is fair for employers to ask their employees to work hard, but sometimes bosses go too far by placing too much pressure on their employees. The negative effects of overly demanding bosses have been widely researched. For instance, one study found
that 77% of employees experienced physical symptoms of stress as a result of poor relationships with their bosses. The wider health effect of consistent overtime, which includes mental health problems, has also been documented.
Getting the work-life balance right is important for many people, especially those who have families or an active social life. According to occupational psychologist Rob Williams
, “It’s fine to work long hours and/or to take work home, but this needs to be a temporary solution. Your manager may demand your immediate attention at work, but that doesnot mean they can expect you to consistently prioritise your working life over your home life”.
Saying no to overtime can be tricky. You donot want to damage your relationship with your boss. If an employer constantly demands overtime, assess your current workload before approaching them. Devise some alternative solutions, such as delegating some tasks to colleagues, or bringing in extra resources. Talking to your colleagues about working overtime can also clarify how the burden of work in your company is distributed, and whether you are being unfairly singled out.
If diplomacy fails, and your boss continues to demand constant overtime, then you should not be afraid of escalating the situation. As an expat in Europe there exists legislation protecting workers from overwork, and it is good to be aware of them. The EU has issued directives on working hours that must be incorporated into law by member states. They require, for instance, that the maximum average working week (including overtime, but with exemptions in certain cases) be no more than 48 hours over a 17-week reference period.
A high-stress job with overtime might not be your thing. It is better not to let it compromise your integrity. Do not be afraid to make the best of a bad situation by preparing to move on to bigger and better things. Adam Watson
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